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Cross-channel swimmer honoured
AN Army sergeant who became the first female soldier to cross the English Channel unaided has received an award.
Amy Baker who is based at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, completed the 24-mile swim in 18 hours, 35 minutes after setting off from Shakespeare Beach in Dover bound for the French port of Calais.
In recognition of the feat, Sgt Baker has been awarded the Director General’s Commendation, which recognises the exceptional achievements of soldiers working in Army training establishments.
The 32-year-old Bosnia, Iraq and Northern Ireland veteran said the cross-channel swim in the world’s busiest shipping lane had been her hardest challenge to date as she had to battle against hypothermia, seasickness and an early bout of self-doubt.
“It was really tough. I wanted to stop three times, but something deep inside wouldn’t let me. After 15 hours of swimming among container ships and ferries, I knew that I was going to make it. I’m not a quitter. I’m really competitive and won’t attempt anything that I don’t think I can complete.”
The first successful crossing took place 137 years ago when, in August 1875, Army officer Captain Matthew Webb swam the English Channel in 21 hours, 45 minutes on his second attempt – a record Sgt Baker beat by three hours and 10 minutes.
During the attempt in September 2011, she was accompanied by a six-strong relay team. She was considered to be swimming unaided as she was not wearing a wetsuit, just a costume, hat and goggles.
The combined effort raised £4,000 for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and a further £4,000 for the Special Care Baby Unit at Harrogate and District Hospital.
Sgt Baker received her award from the Director General Army Recruiting and Training, Major General Dickie Davis.
Major Giles Powell, an officer at the college, said: “She is an inspiration to our young soldiers, and an example of what can be achieved through hard work and determination.”